Raptured: Part 3 – 1 Corinthians 15:35-58

“For I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:50-53, NIV).

Around 50 AD the Apostle Paul conducted his second missionary journey and traveled through Macedonia (modern-day Greece). Due to some troubles caused by some of the citizens of Thessalonica, Paul was forced to escape from the city under the cover of night.

Paul moved on to Athens and then Corinth where he remained for about a year and a half. While at Corinth and possibly due to his abbreviated visit to Thessalonica, Paul wrote two letters to the church at Thessalonica. Paul departed Corinth after a year and a half and went to Jerusalem, then later traveled to Ephesus where he stayed for three years conducting his apostolic ministry (c. AD 53-55). It is believed that while Paul was residing in Ephesus that he wrote 1 Corinthians.

In the first Thessalonian letter Paul addressed the state of the Christian dead. The dead in Christ are not forgotten by God when they die but both the the dead in Christ and those who are alive when Christ returns will be caught up in the air–or raptured–at Christ’s coming. In the second letter Paul assured the Thessalonians that the rapture could not have occurred because certain apocalyptic events including the revealing of the antichrist must take place.

Paul declares a similar message to the Corinthians but with some additional nuances.

In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul frames the Rapture in the context of Resurrection. Christians can be assured that when they die they will be resurrected because Christ died and was resurrected. God became a human being; he lived a human life and died a human death. Then, He was resurrected to eternal life: “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (vs 20).

So, Paul told the Corinthians like he told the Thessalonians that at the coming of Christ the dead and the alive Christians are resurrected: “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him” (vs 21-23).

Paul goes on to explain what a resurrected being is like. The Resurrected are not biological beings nor disembodied spirits. “But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” (vs 15:35, NIV). Paul says human biological beings do not inherit the Kingdom of God. Neither are they ghosts!

Rather, resurrected beings are changed, metamorphosed, transmogrified into a new kind of being! They are “spiritual bodies”–somehow simultaneously biological and spiritual. “It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (vs. 44). And, they are immortal! “For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality” (vs. 53).

Finally, the mystery of the Rapture is revealed. While human beings typically go through death to be resurrected, not all who belong to Christ will be dead at His Coming; some will still be alive. So, Rapture occurs in conjunction with Resurrection because some who belong to Christ are still alive at His coming. “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet”

With Rapture/Resurrection both the alive in Christ and the dead in Christ are concurrently changed into resurrected beings who will live forever in God’s Eternal Kingdom.

Because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. (2 Corinthians 4:14, NIV)

Raptured: Part 2 – 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

“Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him…. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction…. whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming” (2 Thessalonians 1-8, NIV).

Around 50 AD the Apostle Paul conducted his second missionary journey, traveling through Macedonia which is modern-day Greece. Due to some troubles caused by local Thessalonian citizens, Paul was forced to escape from the city of Thessalonica under the cover of night.

Paul’s Second Missionary Journey

Paul moved on to Athens and then Corinth where he remained for about a year and a half. While at Corinth and possibly due to his abbreviated visit to Thessalonica, Paul wrote two letters to the church at Thessalonica. Included in these two letters were descriptions about the Second Coming of Christ and the fate of those who die before Christ’s return.

In his first letter to the Thessalonians Paul explained that the dead in Christ (those who die before the Second Coming) are not forgotten by God when they die. Paul said that when Christ comes to gather his people, the dead in Christ AND those who are alive shall be caught away–or raptured–to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

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Raptured: Part 1 – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (Updated)

For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17, NIV).

Around 50 AD the Apostle Paul and Barnabas left Antioch and returned to the towns in Galatia and Pisidia they had visited on their previous journey (Paul’s second missionary journey is described in Acts 16-18). They had an argument about whether to take John Mark with them again and agreed to disagree and each went their separate way. Barnabas decided to re-visit the Jewish believers in Cyprus while Paul re-visited the Gentile believers in Galatia.

Paul’s Second Missionary Journey

Paul and his missionary team of Silas and Timothy traveled through the Roman provinces of Galatia and Phrygia but the Holy Spirit prevented them from preaching in the Roman province of Asia. One night Paul dreamed a man from Macedonia (in modern-day Greece) was begging him to come and help the people of Macedonia.

Paul’s team sailed across the Aegean Sea and began their journey through Greece. When they reached the city of Thessalonica, Paul and Silas preached in the Jewish synagogue on three consecutive Sabbaths. But some of the Jews became jealous and incited some bad characters in the town to form a mob and cause a riot. Paul and Silas were forced to escape from Thessalonica under the cover of night.

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Living Up – Philippians 3:12-21

“Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do” (Philippians 3:16-17, NIV).

In the 3rd chapter of his letter to the Philippians the Apostle Paul delineates two conflicting lifestyles. One lifestyle is characterized by having confidence in oneself and the material things of this world. Let’s call this living down.

The other lifestyle is characterized by faith in Christ and believing in His resurrection power. This lifestyle is characterized by living one’s life on this earth in preparation for the world to come. Let’s call this living up.

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Jesus Prayed for You – John 17:20-26

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20-21, NIV).

Did you know that when Jesus walked the earth 2,000 years ago that He prayed for you?

Yes, Jesus actually prayed for you….

At the end of a lengthy “Last Supper” after-dinner discussion in John 13-17, Jesus prayed for His disciples and then He prayed for those in the future who will believe the message of His disciples.

His prayer was for every Christian that has ever lived or ever will live.

So, that’s you and me….

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Shameless Audacity – Luke 11:1-13

“I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need” (Luke 11:8, NIV).

In Luke 11:1-13 Jesus taught His disciples a lesson on how to pray. Verses 2-4 are the Luke version of The Lord’s Prayer.

The lesson begins when Jesus returned from praying and one of His disciples asked Him to teach them to pray. Jesus responded to the disciple’s request not with a set of instructions on how to pray or guidelines for showing proper devotion or gratitude to God.

Instead, Jesus replied with a curious story about approaching a neighbor in the middle of the night to ask for some food to feed an unexpected house guest.

Jesus certainly didn’t ignore devotion and gratitude as a function of prayer. In fact, He said you start prayer by acknowledging God the Father is the Provider of all that we ask and recognizing He is the Forgiver of all our sins (vs. 2-4).

But, the key ingredient of prayer in Jesus’ story is found in the the enigmatic behavior of the person making the plea for food to serve to the visitor.

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Leftovers – Matthew 16:1-12

“Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread?'” (Matthew 16:9-11, NIV).

When I was a kid my dad was a school teacher and since school teachers didn’t make very much money, my mom also worked to supplement our family income.

In the summer when school wasn’t in session my dad was a stay-at-home parent and it fell to him to fix lunch each day. He would always gather the leftovers from various, unrelated meals and warm them up for our lunch. Oh, how I loathed leftovers!

Perhaps the disciples felt the same way about leftovers in this story from Matthew 16 when they forgot to take food with them on their boat trip across the Sea of Galilee.

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What’s Really Important – Matthew 6:19-21

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21, NIV).

In this one concise statement Jesus reveals a fundamental attribute of human behavior: People do what’s important to them!

In other words, your priorities dictate your behavior.

Your life in this world is not so much a matter of what you get out of it as what you put into it.

All of us have plans for the future and goals we want to achieve in life. These could be plans for success in your career, a six or seven figure salary, a new home or maybe an exotic vacation.

Whatever the plans or goals are, we strive for those things that are important to us. And, Jesus makes it clear in this pronouncement that the things that we personally value are the things that control our lives.

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Faith And …. Philippians 3

“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write to you again about this is no trouble for me and is a protection for you. Watch out for ‘dogs,’ watch out for evil workers, watch out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, the ones who serve by the Spirit of God, boast in Christ Jesus, and do not put confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:1-3, HCSB).

Most Christians today are probably more concerned about learning correct doctrine than they are about avoiding incorrect doctrine. And, as a result incorrect doctrine can sometimes weave its way into our theological understanding if we don’t beware of incorrect teaching about our salvation in Jesus Christ.

Avoiding false doctrine and its dubious teachers was a big deal to the Apostle Paul. So much so that he used some pretty strong language to call out these teachers of false doctrine.

Specifically, the teaching Paul was castigating in these verses was legalism–salvation that is rules-based and works-oriented. These deceitful teachers told the Philippians that as Gentiles they not only needed to accept Christ as Savior but they also needed to be circumcised and obey the law of Moses in order to be saved.

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Hard Work – Colossians 3:18-25

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:24-25, NIV).

In these verses from Colossians the Apostle Paul counsels people who are slaves and Christians.

Slavery in the ancient Roman Empire was a common practice and there was a vast population of Roman slaves. Slaves were most often prisoners of war but could also be the families of desperate Roman citizens facing hard times. Slaves were so commonplace in Roman society that in addition to being household servants and laborers, they could hold professional positions such as teachers or public servants.

Because of the preponderance of slavery in ancient Roman society, it’s only reasonable that when Paul addresses the subject of relationships in Christian families that he would also include the relationship between slaves and their masters.

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